American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee said she was pepper-sprayed in a racist attack last month while out with a group of friends in Los Angeles.
Lee, the first Hmong American to represent the U.S. in the Olympics, told PopSugar she was waiting for a ride when a car drove by with people shouting racist slurs.
According to Lee, who said she was with a group of friends who were all of Asian descent, one of the passengers sprayed her with pepper spray before the car drove away.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” Lee told PopSugar. “I didn’t do anything to them, and having the reputation, it’s so hard because I didn’t want to do anything that could get me into trouble. I just let it happen.”
Anti-Asian incidents have risen sharply in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition that became the authority on gathering data on racially motivated attacks related to the pandemic, has received more than 9,000 incident reports from March 19, 2020, through this June.
Lee, 18, won gold in the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.